More than 50 Waterbury residents voted almost unanimously Tuesday night to borrow up to $1,025,000 to buy two fire trucks and a roadside mower.
The initial figure of $1 million for the fire trucks was reduced to $900,000 and the $110,000 for the mower bumped up to $125,000. The vote occurred after the Waterbury Record's press time.
The reason for the urgent vote this month: One fire truck has major, highly expensive engine problems, and the other has a gaping hole in the tank that lugs water to fires.
The vote for the trucks was nearly unanimous, with only a single vote against. Discussion of the mower lasted longer than the one about the trucks, but not even one voteer said no.
The meeting was moved to the municipal building after Thatcher Brook Primary School, the original site, was closed for a snow day.
Waterbury Fire Chief Gary Dillon said the town’s current trucks are based on commercial, general use trucks, and the new ones will be custom vehicles, built ground up for pumping water and fighting fires. Not only are they safer, more effective vehicles, but the demo trucks — the one already bought by the select board, and the other the board wanted to buy if the loan was authorized — were great deals, saving the town around $70,000 if it bought the second truck now, he said.
Municipal manager Bill Shepeluk broke down the impact on the taxpayer: The $900,000 for two fire trucks would increase taxes by 2.9 cents per $100 of property value —$58 a year on property worth $200,000 — if paid off in five years, but it was likely that loan repayment would be spread over 15 or 20 years, sharply reducing the tax increase.
Asked why the town would borrow money for the trucks, Shepeluk said paying cash for expensive items like fire trucks would raise taxes, and he preferred paying for the trucks over their expected 20-year lifespan.
While one resident voted against the fire truck purchase, nobody opposed buying the roadside mower.
The proposal was increased from $110,000 to $125,000 so the select board can capitalize on any winter deals on a mower for the spring and summer. Residents talked about the importance of roadside mowing, suggested pushing the decision back to Town Meeting Day, deliberated over buying a used or new mower, called used mowers junk, complained the conversation was too long, and finally Decided to let the select board do its job. Ultimately, the authorization to borrow $125,000 passed with no opposition.